I’m writing this post after a fantastic weekend performing with the London Gay Men’s Chorus at our summer show, Heroes. We performed a 2 hour set at London’s Cadogan Hall covering songs by artists ranging from Bowie to Pet Shop Boys, Erasure to Mendolsshon, Bonnie Tyler to Depeche Mode and a medley of classic drag queen songs with references to Dianna Ross, Gloria Gaynor, Bette Midler, Donna Summer and Dusty Springfield. It was a marathon of a show but utterly thrilling to perform and the reaction from our audiences was amazing.
In between some of the songs we showed some short video clips where chorus members were asked to talk about what heroes mean to them and describe who their heroes are and why. I must admit, throughout the months and months of rehearsals, I never really stopped to think too much about the concept of the show, let alone who my heroes are. But now we’re in post-show glow, I thought I’d write down a few words about my heroes and what they mean to me.
One of my earliest childhood memories was in our council flat in North London, sleeping in the top bunk in the bedroom I shared with my brother. Like all young kids, I had an imaginary friend or rather, I used to imagine that Batman got into bed and slept with me. Goodness only knows where that idea came from but all I can remember is that it made me feel very safe.
If my parents had realised what I was doing they could have predicted I might grow up to be gay! I’ve had a life-long fascination with Batman ever since. I have to admit, I have a soft spot for Superman and Spiderman too! Can’t think why!!!!
For me, I think heroes are people we look up to, who give us strength in difficult times and who inspire us to be better human beings. They don’t have to be ‘super heroes’ in the comic book sense and in fact many of the ‘heroes’ chorus members spoke of were in many ways, ordinary people but who did or stood for extraordinary things.
We have a ‘meet the guys’ section on our website and for that spot I was asked the question ‘who is/are your heroes and why?’ I didn’t hesitate too much in settling on the drag queens of the Stonewall Riots, New York City, 1969 (a year before I was born).
To have been persecuted the way they were, not just by the general public but by the police for doing what?; dressing up in women’s clothes and putting on make up, is almost unthinkable in a civil society today and just plain wrong. Eventually, they decided enough is enough and they fought back, a response neither side probably ever imagined would happen. From that day forwards, the law makers and western society at large realised that ‘fags’ have a voice and they mean business.
As a 40-something gay man living in central London, I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate to have grown up in age where being gay has become more and more acceptable and although we still don’t have absolute and full equality yet with straight people, we’re in a far better position now than when I was growing up. I can generally walk hand in hand down most London streets with my partner without fear of attack, verbally or otherwise. But that’s not to say attacks aren’t possible or that they don’t occur in much the same way as other attacks on minority groups of race, faith, gender etc… In some countries, being gay remains illegal punishable by imprisonment or worse, the death penalty! It remains a sad fact of life that some people feel the need to attack what they don’t understand or fear instead of just accepting people for who they are. There is much work to do but we also have a lot to be thankful for. In the UK we can show commitment to our partners through a Civil Partnership and hopefully soon, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will be passed so that option will be open to us as well.
So the DQs of the Stonewall Riots of 1969 in New York City are my heroes. Who are your heroes and why? And to whom are you a hero? Who would you say you inspire and why? Do you ever think of yourself as a hero?